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Windows users to receive security boost

Microsoft is planning to give Windows users more help dumping spyware from their PCs. The firm will offer a new Giant-developed beta tool from mid-January onwards, though in a break with tradition this security extra may not remain freely available for long.

Microsoft is planning to give Windows users more assistance in dumping spyware from their PCs. From mid-January onwards the firm will offer consumers a free Giant-developed beta program, though in a break with Microsoft tradition this security extra may not stay free for long.

Following the launch earlier this year of Microsoft’s security focused Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Windows XP, the company is now planning to give Windows 2000 and XP users access to Giant Company Software’s as yet unnamed beta program, which is based on its own AntiSpyware title. Microsoft bought Giant Company Software in December 2004.

"Spyware is a serious and growing problem for PC users, and customers have made it clear that they want Microsoft to deliver effective solutions to protect against the threat," explained Mike Nash, corporate vice president of the Security Business and Technology Unit at Microsoft.

Although Giant’s security tool is expected to be freely available at first, this may not remain the case, as when announcing its provision of the beta version Nash confirmed that Microsoft may charge consumers for future versions. "We're going to be working through the issue of pricing and licensing. We'll come up with a plan and roll that out," he said.

Giant’s AntiSpyware tool sweeps PCs for spyware and then offers to remove any suspicious programs it finds, similar in function to rival tools such as Lavasoft’s popular Ad-aware program, which is available to download for free. Ron Franczyk, co-founder and president of technology at Giant Company, explained a little about the forthcoming beta release: "The Giant solution uses extensive spyware-signature databases, real-time security agents and an innovative 'neighborhood watch' for spyware to protect customers from the threat of spyware and other deceptive software."

Spyware is an increasing problem for computer users and can not only slow PC performance, but change a computer's configuration, steal passwords and grab personal information. 2004 saw a huge number of security warnings hit the news and according to research group IDC 67% of consumer PCs are now infected with some form of spyware. In terms of users protecting themselves from malicious software however, there are simple, effective steps that can and should be taken: always use an internet firewall, update PCs regularly with the latest security updates, and employ (and keep up-to-date) anti-virus software.

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